Top Photography Locations in Philadelphia
Couples always ask me “where can we go to take photos around Philadelphia?”
I’ve photographed in this city for more than 30 years, and it’s a great historical city with a lot of rich greenspace and gorgeous architecture. Below are my personal favorite locations:
The Philadelphia Art Museum
2600 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy, Philadelphia, PA 19130
The iconic Rocky steps! It’s the best view of the city. Sometimes it’s a challenge getting to the top of the 72 steps. Aside from the steps, there are some great locations close by. Here, you don’t need a permit, but its first-come-first-serve and the traffic can get a little hectic on the weekends due to weddings and tourism. You’ll have to work around that to make it easier for you. You do need to spend a lot of time here in order to take advantage of the locations, and you might have to wait your turn.
640 Water Works Drive, Philadelphia, PA 19130
This is an awesome location for photography. Water Works was once home to the engine room for Philadelphia’s cutting-edge water department — it’s a National Historic Landmark with breathtaking views of Boathouse Row and the Center City skyline from its waterfront location at the foot of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Yes, you need a permit here! You’ll need to go to Philadelphia Parks and Recreation to get it.
2151 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy, Philadelphia, PA 19130
The Rodin Museum is an art museum containing the largest collection of sculptor Auguste Rodin’s works outside of Paris. It opened in 1929 and the museum is administered by the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Here too, you do not need a permit, but you are dealing with first-come-first-serve. There are sections of well-maintained gardens throughout the property that offer privacy and different styles of lighting. In the center of all of this is a huge reflection pool — the only one in the city!
Benjamin Franklin Parkway at 19th St, Philadelphia, PA 19103
Logan Circle contains gorgeous architecture, a scenic fountain with sculptures of swans, and provides a great view of City Hall. It is directly outside of the Basilica of St. Peter and Paul, so if you’re getting married there it is a quick option. This location — while it is scenic — can pose a challenge. Depending on the season, people use the fountain as a public pool, which can make it an overcrowded experience. I can’t believe how many people use it as a public pool though. It’s all about the timing here. And no permit needed.
231 City Hall, Philadelphia, PA 19107
The most famous shot that everyone wants! It’s in the center of the the city, it has beautiful architecture, and the hustle-and-bustle screams Philadelphia. With all the commotion going by, it puts the couple in their own private world together. The best angle is in front of The Union League Club at Broad & Sansom. This location is great for both day and night because the streets are lit up. This is first-come-first-serve, and no permit required.
210 W Rittenhouse Sq, Philadelphia, PA 19103
This is favorite park in the city for photography! In my personal opinion, it’s the nicest park in the city: great lighting, clean, beautiful plants — it reminds me of a New York park. It’s located on Walnut Street between 18th and 20th Streets, which means it is in walking distance with many popular hotels, such as Sofitel and The Warwick. I’m filmed in a documentary about this park called “Rittenhouse Square” (2005), where I am seen taking photographs of a wedding couple. Photography at Rittenhouse Park is sometimes a challenge because of people congest the area, but the tourists and the locals are very respectful and considerate when taking photos. I’ve never had a problem there to this day. Also, no permit needed here.
Eastern State Penitentiary
2027 Fairmount Avenue Philadelphia,PA
Some of my greatest photos have been taken behind these walls. It’s a perfect location if you are interested in a Gothic 1930’s style. The staff limits photographers from the freedom of exploring the location because it is a famous landmark. Almost anywhere here can make for good photography, but the best spot for a photo, in my opinion, is the greenhouse hallway because of the extra light that enters.
The National Historic Park Gardens
1. Magnolia Garden — It’s a beautiful small garden, but there is not much to photograph here. I recommend it as a great place to do family formals.
2. Rose Garden — This is a beautiful 18th century garden, with a brick path and a tree. It’s very moderate — it isn’t over the top, which is why it isn’t my favorite spot here.
3. 18th Century Garden — This location includes an 18th century gazebo, the plants are maintained well, making it the most attractive out of them all, but it is very small. It’s great for the bride and groom, but poses a challenge for large groups, like family formals. Out of all of the gardens, this is probably the best one because it has a good three-dimensional look.
4. Benjamin Rush Garden/Bishop White Garden — Out of all of the gardens, this is the smallest and it is next to the 18th Century Garden. It is my least favorite of the gardens because of the small size and no good shading. It is still a shootable location, but the best way to make it work is with the bride and groom.
5. Second Bank of the United States — Out of the nine locations, this is my favorite place for photos. I love it because it has a vintage 18th century, historical Philadelphia feel with a cobblestone street, a lot of eye-catching architecture, iron gates, brick paths, and great lighting. For these reasons, this location works very well for wedding photography.
6. Carpenters’ Hall — My photo “Heaven Can Wait,” which won a Kodak Gallery award, was shot at the iron gate of this location. At the time, I was permitted to shoot there. As of now, this spot is off limits for others, but that doesn’t limit the great shots that you can create. The permit allows shooting at the grassy knoll north of Carpenters’ Hall, and there are wooden benches, cobblestone streets and shady trees. Sometimes people have picnics here on the weekends, so be certain to go at the right time. I recommend going in November around 3PM or in July around 8PM because the sun is bright here.
8. Washington Square — The entire park is a graveyard and it contains The Tomb of the Unknown Solider, but don’t let this eerie information divert you from taking photos here because it is a good location with brick paths, high trees, and it is very light on tourists.
Valley Forge State Park
This location is outside of the city and it is the Campsite for Revolutionary War soldiers. There are a lot of log cabins, old wooden bridges, bike paths and there is horseback riding. I recommend the National Memorial Arch, but I usually take the couple into the large field with the hill and scenery in the background; this only requires a couple shots. There is an old barn called Knox Trail Barn that I enjoy shooting at because it is next the drawbridge and the creek which will be in the background, and the barn doesn’t look really old — it’s well-maintained. A permit is needed to shoot professionally here.
15th and John F. Kennedy Blvd.
This is a favorite destination for tourists and locals alike. John F. Kennedy Plaza gets its famed nickname “Love Park” due to it’s famous sculpture, which makes this location only good for one shot, and it is a quick shot.
As of right now, Love Park is under construction and will reopen in 2017. During the construction process, Robert Indiana’s Love sculpture is moved across the street into Dilworth Park until the construction is finished. There is sometimes a line to get the photo in front of the sculpture, but having a bridal dress on can (most of the time) solve that problem and help you butt in line.
No permit needed.
Race Street Pier Park and Under the Ben Franklin Bridge
Columbus Blvd. & Race Street Philadelphia, PA
This is another one of Philadelphia’s amazing outdoor spaces. The Race Street Pier on the Delaware River Waterfront is a relaxing location for the bride and the groom to take photographs. The first thing I do is take the bride and the groom out to the end of the pier and get photos with iconic The Benjamin Franklin Bridge in the background. Located underneath the bridge, you capture the interesting architectural structure of the bridge, and while this may sound unattractive at first, but the mix of the deep blue with the brown rust and the light and shadows can create something really spectacular. Also, this location is great because, if there happens to be poor weather that day, the bridge protects the photo shoot. I highly recommend trying this location! No permit required.
Painted Bride Art Center
230 Vine Street Philadelphia, PA 19106
This is the home to an intimate theater and gallery in Old City. I find this place cool because the walls of the building’s exterior is created using mosaics with glass and metal. It’s perfect for the bride and the groom only, but not a wedding party because the spots are small. No permit is required here, but I recommend a phone call or sending an email to them in order to see if there are events happening that day that we can incorporate into the photo shoot.
200 N. 6th Street Philadelphia, PA 19103
Franklin Square is a fun place to shoot, even though it can become overpopulated with tourists and children. My favorite thing to include in the photo shoot is the all-american style carousel. It’s $3 for a ticket for the ride. If you specifically want a photograph on a carousel, this one of the two places to get it (the other being The Please Touch Museum). Parking around this area is frustrating because there are so few spots, so I recommend getting dropped off by a limousine or a taxi to avoid this. This should be a quick photo session because there are many spots with excellent lighting. No permit required.
Throughout the city there are tons of hand-painted murals on the buildings. One of my favorite murals is the 9/11 American Flag Mural that can clearly be seen when driving from New Jersey to Philadelphia over the Ben Franklin Bridge. I have used these murals many times when taking photos because they’re vibrant and colorful, and creates a lot of character in the photos. I recommend finding a mural that suits your style, researching the safety of the location and handling the parking situation. To begin your search, follow this link: http://www.muralarts.org/artworks/
1300 Eagle Rd, Wayne, PA 19087
In Wayne, Pennsylvania, Eastern University is a great photo location that most people are unaware of. The campus is home to a pond in the shape of a heart and a stone wall with massive trees surrounding it. I recommend traveling here in the autumn to capture the aesthetic of this location. A permit required, so call 610-341-5902 for more information.
1800 Pattison Ave. Philadelphia, PA
This is known to native South Philadelphians as simply “The Lakes.” FDR Park is located at the south end of Broad Street, which boasts rich history and provides an earthy, peaceful escape from the city streets! Though I’ve only been there once or twice, I absolutely love it for photography because the lake, the structure and the lighting makes for original photos.
1001 Longwood Rd, Kennett Square, PA 19348
I’ve done many engagement and wedding photos here, so it does belong in my all-time favorite locations. This may sound strange, but the only problem is that it’s a very large area. Longwood Gardens is 1,000+ acres with beauiful gardens, woodlands, and meadows with stunning illuminated water fountains. Flat shoes are a must to get to different locations, and since it’s so giant, the walk is long, exhausting and the photo shoot will be very time consuming (A Longwood Gardens photo shoot should last about 2-3 hours). Choosing your favorite spot is almost impossible because there is so much. I enjoy catching a shot at the Italian Water Garden because it makes you feel like you’re in Paris — it’s gorgeous! And the lighting can vary here, so bringing a flash is a necessity to ensure a phenomenal shot. I can’t stress enough how beautiful this location is, but sometimes it can become crowded (never overcrowded). Click here to get the rules and regulations for you and your photographer.
Ridley Creek Park
1023 Sycamore Mills Rd, Media, PA 19063
Ridley Creek State Park is home to the large, English-Tutor style house, Hunting Hill Mansion. From stone paths, the trimmed trees, water fountains, and horses located just before the park, this is fun place for photography. It also has a reflection pool with a garden in close proximity to it, which sets it up for a great shot. A permit is required to shoot here.
The Morris Arboretum
100 E. Northwestern Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19118
This is located 15 miles outside of Philadelphia. The Morris Arboretum is a cultivated park covering 92 acres of trees, roses, ponds and swans. The best time to go is towards the end of the day. There are less crowds and better light.
Permit required. Click here for more information.
The Willows Mansion
490 Darby Paoli Rd, Villanova, PA 19085
Willows Park is a 47.5-acre estate purchased by Radnor Township in 1973 from the Zantzinger family. Situated at the end of a long, winding driveway is the beautifully restored three-story mansion. The property is an irresistible combination of quiet elegance within the mansion and unsurpassed beauty of the landscaped grounds surrounding it. Features include a picturesque pond with flowing fountains, sweeping panoramas of stately trees, and flowering plants. The grounds are great for engagement and wedding photos. Permit required. Click here for more information.
Fonthill Castle / Mercer Museum
525 E. Court St, Doylestown, PA 18901 (215) 348-9461
This location is an hour outside of Philadelphia, but it is worth the drive because the architecture of this building is beautiful and the alignment of the trees in the driveway is outstanding! A couple can spend hours snapping photos at this breathtaking location. A permit is required, so if you have any interest in Fonthill Castle, then click here for more information.